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AFS Folklore and Literature Section Think Tank
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7/11/2014 to 7/13/2014
When: 7/11/2014
Where: Cather Family Second Home
Red Cloud, Nebraska 
United States
Contact: Todd Richardson

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This summer, the Folklore and Literature Section of the American Folklore Society will host a three-day “think tank” in Red Cloud, NE, childhood home of Willa Cather. Participants will spend a weekend discussing key literary and scholarly texts in both formal and informal settings, all with an eye on generating ideas and articles that will ignite the study of folklore and literature. The think tank runs from July 11–13, 2014. We’ll be leaving for Red Cloud from Omaha—it’s about a three-hour drive—Friday morning (7/11), returning to Omaha on Sunday evening (7/13). 

Considering the site of the think tank, many of the events will relate to Willa Cather, but we are most interested in enhancing the study of folklore and literature in general. With that in mind, participants will play a key role in determining the event’s reading list and topics for discussion, and any scholar working on any issue relevant to the study of folklore and literature is encouraged to attend.

Transportation to Red Cloud from Omaha will be provided on July 11th, as well as a return trip to Omaha in the evening of July 13th. While in Red Cloud, participants will get to stay in Willa Cather’s family’s second home, both nights’ lodging having been paid for with section dues along with contributing funds from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Free and/or discounted lodging options will be available in Omaha on Thursday and Sunday nights for those arriving early or leaving late. Participants must pay for their own transportation to Omaha (or, if it’s more convenient, directly to Red Cloud) and their own food. The Cather’s second home comes with a full kitchen, and there are a number of affordable dining options in Red Cloud.

Due to limited space in the Cather’s second home, preference will be given to members of the Folklore and Literature Section; if there is still room after all section members sign up, the event will open to all members of the American Folklore Society.

If you’re interested in attending or have any questions about the event, please contact Todd Richardson ( or Shelley Ingram ( by April 18, 2014.


Preliminary Schedule

Thursday (optional)


7:00: Dinner in Omaha with Dr. Charles Johanningsmeier, a reception studies scholar studying Cather’s fan mail




9:00: Depart Omaha. We will all travel together in a van provided by the University of Nebraska at Omaha, giving us ample time to get to know one another (participants may drive themselves to Red Cloud if it’s more convenient).


11:30: Lunch in Dannebrog, NE, with Roger Welsch


2:00–3:30: Work in interest groups. Following our arrival in Red Cloud (approx. 1:30), participants will break into interest groups, which will be identified and arranged beforehand by attendees. This is a time to brainstorm ideas, discuss relevant texts or possibly even share drafts of works-in-progress.


3:30–5:30: Tour of in-town sites (starting at Cather’s childhood home)


6:00: Dinner at the Palace Steakhouse (a restaurant in downtown Red Cloud)


7:00–9:00: General discussion. All participants will convene in the parlor of the Cathers’ second home for a discussion of “Tom Outland’s Story.”




Breakfast at the Cathers’ second home


8:00–12:00: Work in interest groups. Participants will have all morning to further develop their projects. A wide variety of work spaces will be available both in the Cathers’ second home and in historic sites downtown, all of which are within easy walking distance.


Noon: Picnic. This will be held on or adjacent to the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, a botanical treasure consisting of 612 acres of never-been-plowed native prairie.


1:00–4:00: Tour of country sites (including the Cather farmstead and the Pavelka homestead (the Cuzak homestead in My Ántonia))


4:00–6:00: Work in interest groups


7:00–9:00: Dinner and Discussion. After spending the day visiting a number of sites that feature prominently in the book, we will discuss Cather’s most famous novel, My Ántonia. Dinner and discussion will take place in the Cathers’ second home.  




Breakfast at the Cathers’ second home


8:00–12:00: Work in interest groups. Once again, participants will have all morning to work on their projects.


Noon: Lunch (location TBD)


1:30–2:30: Public presentation on folklore and literature. Participants will contribute to the Willa Cather Foundation’s educational programs by holding a public discussion of folklore and literature, to be held at the Red Cloud Opera House.


3:00–5:00: Sharing of projects/results. Participants will share their projects and the intended “next steps” they’ll be taking (e.g. article, conference paper, special topics course) with the group in general.


5:00: Depart Red Cloud for Omaha (If participants’ travel schedules require it, a vehicle may leave for Omaha earlier in the day.)

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